We live in a time where animated movies these days are either completely computer generated, in 3D or as much of a spectacle as a tent pole blockbuster. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but amidst the endless race to release an animated film with the most advanced technology, Disney decided to do something different. In 2009 they went back in time, back to the traditional 2D and hand drawn animation that made them the iconic superpower they are today. The last film to be made that way by The Mouse was 2004’s Home On The Range (a big flop). Yet in the hands of two of their most successful directors Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin), Disney created something truly magical with The Princess and the Frog.
1.Charlotte La Bouff The thing that’s so great about the character of Charlotte La Bouff is that she’s very obviously a parody of the stereotypical Disney princess (see Aurora, Cinderalla etc). Her main aim in life is to be a princess and she has her wealthy father (voiced by John Goodman) jumping to her every whim. She’s the all America gal: blonde, booby and bubbly. On paper you shouldn’t like her, but gosh darn it you can’t help it. Despite being ‘the help’, she befriended Tiana at an early age and that friendship perseveres despite class, social, racial and financial differences. A lot of that is largely down to Miss La Bouff and when the opportunity finally arrives for her to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a princess, she gives that up for her best friend. Solid chick.
2. Almost There Returning to the Broadway format of their most successful animated features, The Princess and the Frog is full of exquisite musical numbers. From the legendary Jennifer Lewis’ Dig A Little Deeper to Dr. John’s love letter Down In New Orleans, there isn’t a single dud in the film. The highlight though is undoubtedly Almost There. Brought to life by the powerhouse talent of Anika Noni Rose (the other Dreamgirl), it’s more than just an exquisite vocal number. Animated in a French/Art Noveau style, this is one of Disney’s edgiest few minutes of screen time. Watch the clip and you’ll understand why.
3. Coming at you in the second dimension The animation, I mean, THE ANIMATION BRO! For children who grew up watching classic Disney flicks like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Aladdin, there’s a special kind of tingle you can’t help but feel when the that unique style is before you once again. Pure. Magic.
4. Down in New Orleans Setting the Brothers Grimm’s The Frog Prince in 1920s New Orleans was a bold move and one that paid off. It’s a city rich with culture and the filmmakers use every morsel of it in the film. From the sweaty swamps of the bayou to the under-your-skin creep of the voodoo traditions, it is visual ecstasy.
5. The message Tiana, Disney’s first African American princess, believes the only way to achieve anything in this life is through hard work. So much so that it’s to her determent: she never enjoys the moment. Then there’s Prince Naveen: quite literally the opposite, a man who is all about “living the high life” and who never takes on any responsibility. But as the wise Mama Odie (Lewis) point outs: it’s all about what’s under the skin. Of course it is, that’s not exactly a groundbreaking sentiment, but it’s the time and detail the filmmakers put into illustrating this point that makes the message stay with you. Never lose sight of what’s important is what The Princess and the Frog tells you, whatever it may be.
Maria Lewis - follow Maria on Twitter here: @moviemazz